L.A.’s Hamilton Sing-Alongs Are the New Karaoke

Belting Broadway tunes is no longer limited to your car

It can be hard living as a musical theater fan in Los Angeles, as popular Broadway shows take their sweet time traveling to the West Coast. Not that we’re bitter about it or anything, but while New York City gets to enjoy hits like Something Rotten, Fun Home, and Hamilton, we have to feign excitement over Dirty Dancing—a staged shot-for-shot remake of the movie—at the Pantages. And so we must rely on the resourcefulness of our own talented, bound-for-fame-and-fortune denizens to keep things interesting.

Hamilton, the hip-hop musical based on a 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton that has inspired people to care about America’s Founding Fathers for the first time since high school, is a Broadway behemoth: since opening in August of last year, every show has sold out (and all tickets are sold through January of 2017). The average ticket price is $160, but scalpers are charging well into the thousands depending on seat selection and performance times. To date, the show has grossed $52,854,365. The cast recording debuted at number three on Billboard’s rap chart, which probably made a lot of rappers very angry. In other words, writer/composer/star/genius Lin-Manuel Miranda’s production is a big deal—and it won’t be arriving in L.A. until 2017. In the meantime, we do what any normal person would do: try to memorize Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton’s intricate “Cabinet battle” throw downs mid-gridlock on the 110; rewatch the cast’s incredible Grammy performance; wait impatiently for Miranda to post videos of himself singing on his social media. Oh, and participate in local Hamilton sing-alongs.

Yes, it’s true: Hoards of die-hard Hammy fans have been organizing dedicated belt-fests the city over. Two weeks ago, a group called Hamiltunes LA threw a sing-along party that drew a small crowd of 80. This past Saturday, what seemed like one million people were crammed into the small back room of the Three Clubs in Hollywood to sing, yell, and openly cry while crooning along to karaoke tracks of the musical at a different event called Washington on Our Side: A Hamilton Singing Extravaganza.

Volunteers took to a tiny stage to lead the songs. Gender didn’t confine people to certain roles: during the final song of Act One, the event’s organizer, Kelly D’Angelo, not only played Hamilton, she played Hamilton wearing a period gown. (She even brought her own quill.) And while the performers on stage were certainly enthusiastic, the real energy came from the crowd. It seemed as though every other lyric was the group’s very favorite lyric, every song was THE song. The audience sang at the top of its lungs even during slower tempo numbers like “Dear Theodosia.” As someone who grew up Catholic, I have to say: As cheesy as it sounds, this Hamilton sing-along reminded me of church.

It might be agonizing to wait for Hamilton to make its way to the west, but thanks to events like these, at least fans will know they’re not alone in the struggle.